The Rex Allen Show – July 21, 1950 – CBS Radio – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Some Americana this weekend, by way of Rex Allen along with The Sons Of The Pioneers and broadcast on July 21, 1950 over the CBS Radio network.
Dubbed The Arizona Cowboy, Allen was also considered the last Hollywood Singing Cowboy. Allen began his singing career on radio station KOY in Phoenix, Arizona, after which he became better known as a performer on the National Barn Dance on WLS in Chicago.
When singing cowboys such as Roy Rogers and Gene Autry were very much in vogue in American film, in 1949 Republic Pictures in Hollywood gave him a screen test and put him under contract. Beginning in 1950, Allen starred as himself in 19 of Hollywood’s Western movies. One of the top-ten box office draws of the day, whose character was soon depicted in comic books, on screen Allen personified the clean cut, God-fearing American hero of the Wild West, who wore a white Stetson hat, loved his faithful horse Koko, and had a loyal buddy who shared his adventures. Allen’s comic-relief sidekick in his first few pictures was Buddy Ebsen and then character actor Slim Pickens.
Allen wrote and recorded many songs, a number of which were featured in his own films. Late in coming to the industry, his film career was relatively short as the popularity of westerns faded by the mid 1950s. But he starred in a number of B-Westerns during the 1950s.
As other cowboy stars made the transition to television, Allen tried too, cast as Dr. Bill Baxter for the half-hour weekly syndicated series Frontier Doctor. In 1961, he was one of five rotating hosts for NBC-TV’s Five Star Jubilee.
Allen had a rich, pleasant voice, ideally suited for narration, and was able to find considerable work as a narrator in a variety of films, especially for Walt Disney Pictures wildlife films and television shows. The work earned him the nickname, “The Voice of the West.” He narrated the original 1963 version of The Incredible Journey. He also was the voice of the father on Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, first presented at the 1964 World’s Fair and now at Walt Disney World. A 1993 renovation replaced Allen with Jean Shepherd as the voice of the father, but Allen was given a cameo as the grandfather in the final scene.
Allen provided the narration for the 1973 Hanna-Barbera animated film Charlotte’s Web. He was also the voice behind Purina Dog Chow commercials for many years. After moving to Sonoita, Arizona, in the early 1990s, he was a viable voice talent almost until his death, recording hundreds of national advertising voice tracks at his favorite Tucson studio, Porter Sound. In his later years he also performed frequently with actor Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez. He wrote and sang the theme song for the early 1980s sitcom Best of the West. Rex Allen died on December 17, 1999, at the age of 78, in Tucson, Arizona.
For a sample of what Rex Allen was all about on radio during a time when artists were gradually defecting to TV, here he is with The Sons Of The Pioneers – loads of homespun banter and the corniest jokes in the world, all as it was broadcast on July 21, 1950 by the CBS Radio Network.
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